As if shooting for his 300th career win in front of friends, family and a Memorial Day sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium isn’t enough, Roger Clemens will also be trying to end New York’s longest home losing streak in 17 years.
“All our eggs are in one basket and that’s Roger,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “The ironic part is we need a win and he’s not too bad to send out there.”
“The Rocket” tries to become just the 21st pitcher in baseball history to reach the 300-win plateau when the Yankees open a three-game series against the team he won his first 192 games with, the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox.
“It’s another milestone, a number that all the great ones have achieved,” Clemens said. “I would’ve never thought of it a long time ago.
“Probably after my first or second year with the Yankees, everybody talked about it, about how difficult it was to do. At 200 wins, you don’t think about it.”
While the buildup to Clemens’ bid for No. 300 has been mounting since spring training, the Yankees have fallen on hard times since an amazing 20-4 start. They’ve gone just 9-16 since, dropping 11 of 12 at home and seven in a row at the Stadium for the first time since a 10-game skid in 1986.
Clemens, who was helping to pitch the Red Sox to the World Series that season, is expected to have several of his former Boston teammates on hand when he shoots for the historic win.
Clemens’ mother, Bess, who suffers from emphysema and has had a recent bout with pneumonia, may also be in attendance.
“I know she wants to be here,” said the 40-year-old Clemens, who beat Boston at Fenway Park last week for win No. 299. “If she can get up and get her breath, she’ll be here.”
The Yankees, who are 1 1/2 games behind Boston in the East, suffered their first four-game sweep to Toronto over the weekend, capped by a 5-3 loss Sunday.
New York stranded four runners en route to its season-high fourth straight loss, and was outscored 24-10 by the surging Blue Jays.
The Red Sox were denied a sweep in their three-game set with Cleveland, dropping a 6-4 decision Sunday.
Nomar Garciaparra went 1-for-3 with a run scored and two RBIs, extending his major league season-high hitting streak to 25.
Garciaparra, who was teammates with Clemens for one season before the right-hander left Boston for Toronto as a free agent in 1996, hit a two-run homer off the six-time AL Cy Young Award winner in Wednesday’s 4-2 loss at Fenway.
He and the rest of the Red Sox are eager to keep Clemens from making history against them on Monday.
“If you can’t get up for that, I don’t know what will do it,” said Boston outfielder Johnny Damon. “I don’t think we want to be on all the classic TV shows with Roger so let’s try to beat them.”
STANDINGS: Red Sox - 1st place, AL East. Yankees - 2nd place, 1 1/2 GB, AL East.
RED SOX PROBABLE STARTER: Tim Wakefield (4-2, 4.50 ERA). The veteran knuckleballer was outdueled by Clemens on Wednesday, yielding three runs and four hits over seven innings. Wakefield is 4-7 with one save and a 5.30 ERA in 27 career appearances, including 10 starts, against the Yankees.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Clemens (6-2, 2.92 ERA). Clemens limited the Red Sox to two runs and nine hits over six innings Wednesday before leaving the game with a bone bruise on his right hand after taking a comebacker off his knuckles in the bottom of the sixth. The hard-throwing right-hander is 7-2 with a 2.47 ERA in 15 career starts against his former club.
SEASON SERIES: Yankees, 2-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Red Sox - The Red Sox placed RHP Pedro Martinez on the 15-day DL on Sunday due to an inflamed muscle in his right side. Martinez, who has not pitched in more than a week, is expected to be back next weekend in Toronto. … SS Garciaparra is 6-for-36 (.167) with a homer, five RBIs and 12 strikeouts in his career against RHP Clemens. … OF Trot Nixon has had much better success against Clemens, batting .370 (10-for-27) with two homers and seven RBIs. Yankees - Batting leadoff Sunday, SS Derek Jeter hit his first homer of the season. 2B Soriano batted third for the first time in his career, and also homered. … With a win Monday, Clemens will tie Lefty Grove and Early Wynn, both of whom finished with exactly 300 career wins. He will also become the first pitcher to reach the hallowed mark since fellow Texan Nolan Ryan in 1990. … No New York pitcher has ever recorded his 300th win at Yankee Stadium.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Red Sox - 12-10 on the road; Yankees - 11-14 at home.
INJURIES: Red Sox - RHP Martinez (side), 15-day DL; RHP Chad Fox (oblique), 15-day DL; LHP Matt White (oblique), 15-day DL. Yankees - 1B Nick Johnson (hand), 15-day DL; OF Bernie Williams (knee), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Karsay (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Jon Lieber (elbow), 60-day DL.